My Birth Story: Lucy’s Early Arrival
When I was pregnant with my first daughter, we lived in Wisconsin. We were planning on moving to Ohio when I would have been 34 weeks. We had everything set up: a doctor and a hospital in Ohio, movers and moving truck ready, and a subletter for our apartment. My husband would drive the truck and I would drive the car. My mother was concerned about this arrangement and decided to come up from Pennsylvania to ride in the car with me “just in case.”
I was not feeling well when moving day arrived. I figured it was because I had just finished a semester of graduate school and taken final exams. My mother and I got in the car to get a head start ahead of my husband. We stopped at a gas station to use the restroom before leaving the city. I noticed some brown discharge and thought that was concerning. My mother suggested I call the doctor. I did, and sure enough they wanted me to come in to the hospital. When I got out of the car to let my mother drive, my water broke! I had to call my husband, who was still loading up our moving truck. He literally dropped the furniture he was holding when I told him.
We made it to the hospital, and I was admitted. We waited for my husband to come. He parked the moving truck in the emergency room parking lot, found my room, and then we had to decide what to do next. My mother made the decision that she would leave and drive our moving truck to Ohio.
Meanwhile, I had been in the hospital for a few hours and was only having mild contractions. The obstetrician said it would probably be after midnight before we had our little girl. They prepared me for her birth. Because she was only 34 weeks, the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) had been alerted and was on standby. They would be in the room when I was pushing so she could be immediately assessed and taken to the NICU. I was still in shock and barely registered any of it. With my husband by my side, I was doing well managing the pain. I had wanted to forego pain medication all along, and fortunately that was going according to plan.
At about 4:30 p.m., my contractions really ramped up. I was no longer having breaks between contractions. It was like one long, constant contraction, and I was having back labor. The nurse helped me get on my hands and knees to relieve the pain. While in that position, I started feeling the urge to push. The nurse said it must be too soon, and that we had to wait for the resident. I knew I couldn’t wait. I tried not to push but it was too hard. The resident came and immediately called for the doctor and for the NICU (they weren’t expecting my baby for another few hours at least). When I turned around to push, there were at least 15 people in my room: medical students, the resident, the obstetrician, nurses, and a whole NICU team.
The doctor finally said I could push, to which I replied, “I’ve been doing that this whole time!” I only had to push two or three times, and Lucy was born. I was able to hold her for a minute, and then she was whisked away to the NICU. My husband went with her. I was left alone with a nurse, a breast pump, and a cafeteria menu. It was incredibly surreal. As I pumped those first few drops of colostrum, I tried to soak in what had just happened. Nothing felt real. As soon as I was cleaned up, I went to the NICU in a wheelchair. I could finally see my little girl, covered with tubes and wires. She had Respiratory Distress Syndrome, a very common issue with premature infants. The neonatologist assured us that there was nothing to be worried about, and that she was merely on par for an average 34-week-old newborn.
That evening, as we were getting ready to sleep, we had the realization that I would be discharged from the hospital before our baby. We also realized that we had no home, no clothes, and no food. Our entire life was on that moving truck. Thanks to some amazing friends from our church, a couple offered their apartment so we could have a place to stay. Another friend organized a meal chain. And we went to the NICU every single day, 12 hours a day, for two weeks. I pumped every three hours. I brought the bottles of milk with me to the NICU each morning.
Lucy was getting better each day. We did skin to skin and practiced breastfeeding at every opportunity. We spent Christmas, New Years, and our first wedding anniversary in that NICU. We were exhausted every day, but we had each other. And our girl! After two weeks, she was ready to go home. Of course this was still winter in Wisconsin, and the wind chill was -55. And we still had a 10-hour drive to Ohio! We started our trip with me in the back next to our daughter. I had a car charger for my pump so I kept up my pumping schedule for the whole ride. I pumped a bottle, and then we’d stop at a rest stop to feed her.
Somewhere in Indiana, we ran into a blizzard. We still had about 2 hours to go to get to our new home. So we stopped in a town among the cornfields, which had exactly one motel. The next day, we completed our journey and were finally at home with our newborn!
Of course, we still had to unpack, and my husband had to go to work immediately. We had jaundice issues to work through. But I’m proud to say that after a couple months, she transitioned to fully breastfeeding. I put my pump away and haven’t used it since. That little girl is almost three years old. She has a baby sister who had a much more normal birth story. But Lucy will always be the one who made me a mother, and I wouldn’t trade her birth story for anything.